George Washington University Surprises 8 D.C. High School Students With Scholarships

Eight high school seniors in D.C. got the surprise of their lives Tuesday as they found out they’ll be going to George Washington University next year on full scholarships.

The Ballou High School marching band and senior class thought they were called to a pep rally, but the real reason was to surprise band member Tai’Lon Jackson with a $200,000 Steven Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship.

Jackson’s surprise was only outdone by his mother’s pride.

“I just started tearing up just knowing that he got the scholarship, knowing that everything is going to be so much easier on us financially,” Helena Jackson said.

While it was a surprise, Jackson, the senior class president and valedictorian since the 10th grade, knew something was up when he heard talk about the Trachtenberg Scholarship.

“They started talking about Trachtenberg, and I think to myself, ‘I applied for Trachtenberg. Why are they talking about that?’” Jackson said. “And then they said my name and they presented me with this award. I can’t describe how I feel right now.”

The annual scholarships announcements help inspire all students, not just the ones who get the money, GW President Steve Knapp said.

“It’s my favorite day of the year,” he said.

For Jackson and his mother, getting to this point hasn’t been easy. The family has made a lot of sacrifices they say other families don’t have to make.

“I’m already at a disadvantage living in this neighborhood and not having as much as other people have,” Jackson said. “So if I don’t study the hardest I can study then I’m out of the competition. I can’t compete unless I put my best foot forward.”

Seven more local students received their surprise scholarships Tuesday, including three from Banneker High School. Avery Coffey built a robot at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory during an internship, Reniya Dinkins chairs the D.C. Youth Advisory Council that provides feedback to the mayor’s office on issues affecting D.C. youth and Meron Hagos is a youth ambassador at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and at Children’s National Medical Center.

Capital City Public Charter School’s Minh-Hong Nguyen, who has interned in a GW chemistry lab, will be the first in her family to graduate high school and go to college.

Malachi Byrd, a member of the D.C. National SLAM Poetry Team from Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, performed in the national SLAM competition.

Last summer, Friendship Collegiate Academy’s China Green studied philosophy and Mandarin at Duke University.

Llewellyn “Xavier” Richie is president of the National Honor Society at KIPP Public Charter Schools.

Each student gets tuition, books, and room and board for four years.

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